Unemployment rates for people with mental health problems rose more than twice as much than for people without mental health problems during the recession, according to new research.
Researchers from King’s College London also found that this gap in employment rates was even greater for men and for those with low levels of education.
For the study, the researchers collected data in 27 European Union countries from more than 20,000 people in 2006 and again in 2010. Using the Eurobarometer survey, they assessed mental health, stigmatizing attitudes, socio-demographic information, such as age, gender, education level, and current employment rate.
At the start of the study, unemployment was at 7.1 percent for people without mental health problems, compared to 12.7 percent for people with mental health problems. In 2010, this rose to 9.8 percent and 18.2 percent, respectively.
This corresponds to an increase of 5.5 percent for people with mental health problems vs 2.7 percent for people without mental health problems.
“The economic recession has had enormous impact across much of Europe, but there is little information about the specific impact of the recession on groups who are already vulnerable to social exclusion, specifically, people with mental health problems,” said Sara Evans-Lacko, Ph.D., lead author of the study from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry.
“This is the first study to show that the European economic crisis has had a profound impact on people with mental health problems, compared to those without.”
The study also found that men and individuals with lower levels of education were significantly more likely to be unemployed after the recession. In 2010, 21.7 percent of men with mental health problems were unemployed, compared to 13.7 percent in 2006, the researchers report.
The researchers also found that stigmatizing attitudes — especially beliefs regarding how dangerous people with mental health problems might be — were an important factor contributing to the rise in unemployment.
Living in a country where a higher proportion of individuals believed that people with mental health problems were dangerous was associated with higher levels of unemployment for those people, according to the researchers.
The study also found that, in addition to higher unemployment, men with mental health problems and individuals with lower levels of education were less likely to seek help. They also had more negative attitudes to mental health, which may require specific forms of outreach, the researchers postulate.
“Our study emphasizes that one important implication of stigma and discrimination is exclusion from employment,” said Graham Thornicroft, Ph.D., co-author of the study.
“During periods of economic recession, attitudes to people with mental health problems may harden, further deepening social exclusion,” he said. “Governments need to be aware of these risks, and employers need to be aware of their legal duty to comply with the Equality Act to support people with mental health problems coming into, and staying in, employment.”
Source: King’s College London